Next Generation Reactors
Working alongside the Idaho National Laboratory, Entergy and industry leaders
have formed the NGNP Industry Alliance Limited (www.ngnpalliance.org)
to support commercialization of the next generation of nuclear energy plants
that have truly exciting potential – the promise of giving us a way to make
large volumes of hydrogen and process heat as well as making electric power.
These super-safe advanced reactors, called high temperature gas-cooled
reactors (HTGRs), appear to be the first clear path to regaining energy
independence for America while reducing greenhouse gases from industrial
manufacturing processes that now rely of fossil fuels. The Next Generation
Nuclear Plant Project is funded by Congress through the Energy Policy Act of
2005 and is a project of the Department of Energy (DOE).
HTGRs operate at 800-900 degrees Celsius, compared to 350-400 degrees C of
today’s reactors. We know water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen at those
high temperatures and with no waste or pollutants of any kind. Also, volumes
of high temperature heat is required for converting oil and chemicals into
products we use everyday. America has decades of nuclear fuel and the use of
HTGRs is a sustainable source of energy for industry and creating a
competitive cost option without carbon emissions.
HTGRs are cooled by helium, not water like today’s reactors. Helium is inert
and will not become radioactive. So if any leaks out, being lighter than air,
it would just float away harmlessly. Cooling water in today’s reactors carries
radioactivity with it if it leaks. That requires emergency plans to protect
the public around today’s plants. No such emergency plans would be necessary
around these advanced reactors. These reactors also shut themselves off if
they overheat. They can also be built underground, making them very difficult
targets for a terrorist.